Nokia Can Regain Smartphone Leadership with Renewed Symbian Efforts

Nokia, the world’s largest phone maker, has found itself struggling in recent years against challengers from iOS and Android camps, but the Symbian heavyweight is showing that it is welcoming change, a positive sign of things to come for the company. After having re-taken control of Symbian development efforts from the Symbian Foundation, Nokia has announced aggressive plans for the Symbian platform as well as for its MeeGo operating system.

When the Nokia N8 launched, which is the Finnish phone-maker’s current flagship device, Nokia was still playing catch-up to Android and Apple. From a hardware perspective, the N8 is the climax of refined design and highlights the company’s successful transition from a non-touch paradigm to capacitive touchscreen. The company’s initial touchscreen effort post-iPhone launch, the Nokia 5800 series, was seen as a last ditch attempt to remain competitive with its resistive touchscreen and plastic shell. With the N8, we’ve seen progress in design, durability, and usability. What a journey it’s been for the once undisputed king of phones to have to catch up to some inexperienced challengers in the phone space. However, that said, Nokia is doing it with a lot of grace–the company is owning up to its mistakes and has created a beautiful hardware with powerful features in an elegant package.


However, beauty is not just skin-deep, and what’s really holding Nokia back is the software. Reviewers note the excellent hardware, powerful camera and multimedia features, and design of the N8, but questioned the Symbian^3 operating system for its dated user interface, laggy user experience, and non-revolutionary make-over from previous versions, notably Nokia’s Symbian S60 iteration.


However, the N8, and the soon to be released E7 messaging phone that’s a descendant of the company’s Communicator line, will hopefully mark the end of Nokia’s struggles if the company goes ahead and implements plans that were announced at the 2010 International Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing. According to Nokia’s senior manager Gunther Kottziper, the company intends on wowing us with Symbinan in the coming year or two.


Now that Nokia is regaining control of Symbian development, the company plans to roll out an aggressive upgrade path for Symbian in the next year or year and half with up to 4 or 5 major upgrades scheduled. Beginning in 2011, an initial Symbian update will bring more than 50 changes to the platform, including a refined browser, which is something that the Nokia N8 needs when it faces sleek Webkit-based browsers from competing platforms. The next upgrades will bring a new look and refinements to the user interface, including a more flexible home screen, and an updatable HTML5 browser along with a better software update experience.

With an upgradeable browser, Nokia may be divorcing the browser from the OS and present the browser as a standalone app, much like browsers on a desktop. That way, updates to the browser can be pushed out more quickly and efficiently, and if there are security threats or flaws in the browser, those can get patched quickly as well rather than have users wait for a major OS revision. This can help the browser evolve, too, so that it can get updated codes to improve rendering speeds and be more competitive against iOS’s Safari browser and Android’s Webkit-based browser, both of which also support HTML5.

In terms of a new look and feel for the user interface, it’s unclear by what Nokia is aiming for with Symbian, but from a prior announcement regarding the MeeGo UI and user experience, it seems like the company has big plans. With the comnpany eyeing Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 revolution, which marches to a different beat than Android or iOS, Nokia may be looking at live widgets, which is something that was recently tweeted about regarding a new home screen Twitter client.

Another thing that some users were displeased about with the Nokia N8 is the slow-ish processor. Despite the fact that Symbian is more efficient at handling tasks than other platforms, users are looking at gigahertz speeds and when they compare an Android Nexus S to an N8, it seems that the N8’s guts don’t match up. Not to worry, though, as 2011 will change that. Nokia is committed to gigahertz processing power for smartphones in Q2 or Q3 2011, and it’s camera phones, marked by the N-Series, will be seeing “true zoom cameras,” suggesting that optical zoom will also be coming.


Currently, Nokia uses excellent Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash on its high-end N-series smart camera phones, like the N8. Having seen some of the image quality produced by the N8, the device can be seen as a true camera replacement, even with its digital-only zoom capabilities. With an optical zoom, Nokia will definitely be the photographer’s dream smartphone.

Moreover, after gigahertz processing will be dual-core processing, and those won’t happen until the end of 2011.

As Nokia is committed to its products and platforms, and as it outlines it path to survival, it seems that the company will be able to weather the storm and make a come back. The company already knows how to produce excellent hardware–it just needs to compel users to buy its phones with the right software and experience. In some ways, Nokia’s journey is somewhat reminiscent of Apple’s history in the PC industry. With the Win-Tels being a disruptive force in Apple’s plans for desktop dominance, the company evolved its products and strategy to include OS X, the iPod, and now the iPhone and iPad. Nokia’s disruptive force is the iPhone and Google’s Android devices, and the company can regain its leadership by looking ahead and re-inventing what it already knows how to do. There’s still a lot of promise in MeeGo and a refined Symbian experience.

Via: Computer World